Work life balance or work life integration?

work_lifeThe topic/debate about work life balance has been on my mind for quite some time now. Mostly because I’ve witnessed many of my team members/peers/friends across departments and organizations complain about not going off balance often. Only after writing most of this piece and then researching Google for how much has been written about the topic, I figured that this has been a hot topic researched by many scholars off late.

So while all of us know and realize that there’s been a lot of debate about work life balance in HR circles as well as amongst employees in last few years, what is work life balance anyway? Restricting work hours to usual 8/9 hours? So do most of us really work longer than 9 hours – on a regular basis?

Traditionally, employees used to work in regular 8/9 hr shifts (mostly 9AM to 6PM) and seems that’s what they called a balanced life – doing work during work time and not thinking about work after stepping out from office premises. The definition hasn’t changed amongst many employees even today. But the truth is that most of us, at least in the Services industry, have started working with global customers (and therefore different time zones) in last few years, and job requirements demand us to be available for longer than the usual 9 hours. But is “being available” same as “working” for longer than 9 hours – on a regular basis?

Picture this – you work with a customer who is in a different time zone. About twice a week, you connect with the customer in your late evening/early morning. However, the time you spend in customer meetings is mostly a planned activity from the point of view of planning/effort estimation/billing. So, does it make your life off balance? Or does spending that one hour in the evening/morning on a conference call reduce one hour from your usual work time? Add to this, checking your emails in late evening/early morning to ensure that you’ve all interactions/responses in place from the customer for the effective functioning on the next day. Does that reduce your work time and increase effectiveness the subsequent day? And, probably help you get free from work a couple of hrs early to enjoy a longer evening/morning at home or makes your afternoon free enough to get out of offfice for some time and finish that important shopping? If the answer is no, you should perhaps try a combination of time management, work planning, prioritization, and saying “NO” J

For the rest of us, a lot of times all of us have bouts of increased workload on certain days, but we also have windows of idle time on other days. There are lot of times when we have busy mornings, but there are also times when we have free evenings. And, that’s because no organization plans for over 8 hours of work for any employee/project/team on a regular basis. We’re mostly available for personal life 24/7, then why not for work? Perhaps we should focus on “blending/integrating” work with life rather than looking for a balance. Once we do that, the balance will follow through. Of course, we’ll all need to like and own our work as much as we like and own other aspects of our lives.

A couple of requirements to make this happen:

1. Flexibility and commitment from employee as well as the organization he/she works for
2. Effective planning/time management for work as well as personal life – strictly no over planning on a regular basis

So, is it really about work life balance or work life integration? What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Work life balance or work life integration?

  1. This is a great question to consider for our own work-life balance! I know I’m often available for my clients late into the evening and answer emails on the weekends. However during the “normal” workday I also find time to do personal things that are non-work related. I guess as an entrepreneur I just don’t fit the normal 9-5 schedule.

    • True Stephanie! I guess organizations are also changing to provide this flexibility – most are still in transition phase though. To make this completely happen, employees need to own their work as much as entrepreneurs do and in turn, organizations need to trust their people! Not an easy change in mindsets, for sure 🙂

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